Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Walt Whitman

Cold Splinters mentioned the poet Antler today and it reminded me of a poem of his I've been meaning to post for awhile. According to the preface to Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, the powers of a great poet to speak the truth have no bounds, can boldly encompass all he or she encounters, and lay bare the hearts of things, the truth of things. Here's an example of the powers of a great poet to capture, not from Whitman, but from Antler writing about Whitman.

Whenever I teach or discuss Walt Whitman, conversation always seems to find it's way back to the poet's sexuality (look, it's happening again...). In once sense, discussing Whitman's homosexuality reaffirms what we should all already know - that our heroes, icons, and leaders of previous generations included gay men and women, even if they weren't able to publicly fulfill their romantic and emotional lives. We should celebrate Whitman's sexuality as an integral part of our understanding of the poet, and, by extension, remember to embrace homosexuality as a creative and generative force in American culture. Of course no one is wholly their sexuality, this is true for Whitman as well. As a teacher and student of literature, I've struggled to meaningfully situate Whitman's sexuality in respect to the totality of his writing and his aura. Luckily, Antler found the words and put them together for us in his poem, "Whitmansexual," reproduced below. Be sure to check out more of Antler poetry here on his website.


Whitman was a mansexual,
      a womansexual,
A grasssexual, a treesexual,
      a skysexual, an earthsexual.
Whitman was an oceansexual, a mountainsexual,
      a cloudsexual, a prariesexual,
A birdsongsexual, a lilacsmellsexual,
      a gallopinghorsesexual.
Whitman was a darknesssexual, a sleepersexual,
      a sunrisesexual, a MilkyWaysexual,
A gentlebreezesexual, an openroadsexual,
      a wildernesssexual, a democracysexual,
A drumtapssexual, a crossingbrooklynferrysexual,
      a sands-at-seventy-sexual.
Whitman was a farewell-my-fancy-sexual,
      a luckier-than-was-thought-sexual,
A deathsexual, a corpsewatchsexual,
      a compostsexual, a poets-to-come-sexual,
A miracle-sexual, an immortalitysexual,
      a cosmos-sexual, a waiting-for-you-sexual.

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